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Double your money

| Cycling Plus, Features | 14/09/2010 13:30pm

You can pick up a road bike for £300 or you can blow your life savings. So, asks Pete Giddings, what’s the difference?

My Dad always says ‘you get what you pay for’ usually just after a bargain I’ve found breaks. I’ve never found  those true either – especially when you’re buying a bike. So, just what can you expect to get as you move up through the road biking budget?

£300

£270 is pretty much the lowest you can go if you want a brand new road bike, with Decathlon offering the Sport 1 model. Spen £350 on the Viking Roma and, like the Sport 1, you’ll get a basic aluminium frame and steel fork combination with an 8-speed Shimano drivetrain, although components come from the Shimano 2300 range instead of the 2200 level kit of the Decathlon for slightly improved shift performance.

On budget bikes the rest of the components like stem and saddle, are compiled from a range of manufacturers in order to meet tight budgetary requirements. While many of these items function well it is worth checking reviews – if you can find them sites like Bikeradar – to weed out possible problem areas.

We chose to try out the Claud Butler Criterium as on paper it offers the best frame within this price bracket, with vibration damping curved seat stays a real bonus. Unfortunately the 7-speed Shimano gears are downgraded in order to squeeze the higher spec frame in on the £319.99 budget.

Claud Butler Criterium is a decent starter choice

A tall head tube means that the bars offer a high, distance friendly position and help inspire confidence in riders not used to aggressive ‘racy’ positions. As a result the Criterium feels smooth and stable most of the time, but when cornering at speed the rearward weight distribution and reasonably flexible wheels does mean that it suffers from noticeable understeer.

Press hard on the pedals and the combination of flexible chainstays and heavy 30mm deep alloy rims make progress feel slow. Pedal gently, though, and the lack of frame stiffness is not an issue. In that respect it represents a reasonable entry point for riders looking to make an inexpensive start on the road,  however improvers might out grow the Criteriums softly-softly character as their fitness improves.

Shifting gears with the centrally mounted levers does require moving your hands away from the brakes and releasing your grip on the bars which isn’t idea. Although gear shifts are faultless once the gear is selected, we feel not having the simultaneous access to both gears and brakes provided by integrated gear and brake levers (STIs)  is too large a price to pay for the better frame of the Criterium.

It’s easy to be snobby about £300 bikes but although the Criterium is a bit weighty at 11.6Kg it’s still fun to ride. However  if you want to test your mettle with harder efforts then it isn’t quite up to the task.

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